North Korea has warned again that it would carry out another nuclear test. Ri Tong-il, the North’s deputy U.N. ambassador, said Friday that the world would have to “wait and see” what his country meant when it said late last month that it would conduct a “new form of nuclear test.”
On March 30, the North’s Foreign Ministry said Pyongyang would not rule out a new form of nuclear test to bolster its nuclear deterrence. The ministry’s threat came three days after the U.N. Security Council issued a statement criticizing the North’s March 26 test-firing of two medium-range ballistic missiles.
In his second news conference in less than two weeks, Ri said the North would have no choice but to undertake another nuclear test if the U.S. continued what he claimed was an effort to topple the Pyongyang regime. He made similar remarks in an earlier news conference on March 24.
Ri’s second press meeting appeared designed to send a clearer signal to the world that the North would conduct its fourth nuclear test soon. In light of the North’s usual pattern, the test is very likely to come before the end of the month.
The North’s three previous tests ― conducted in 2006, 2009 and 2013 ― were all carried out within one month of an announcement by the Foreign Ministry.
The three tests also followed the same pattern: the North’s firing of ballistic missiles, followed by U.N. Security Council sanctions, and the North’s defiance in the form of a nuclear test. Recent developments suggest that the North is following this pattern again.
Now the focus of international attention is what the North’s new form of nuclear test would be. One theory suggests that it might test a “boosted fission weapon,” a type of bomb that uses a small amount of fusion fuel to boost its destructive power.
A successful test would give the North the ability to put a compact nuclear warhead on a long-range ballistic missile, posing a serious threat to the United States.
But Washington has few options to stop the North from pushing ahead with the test. China does not seem to have the leverage to prevent it either. Its failure to prevent the three previous ones shows this.
So the North is likely to be able to carry out the fourth test, if it intends to. But what would the North Korean leader get from it? Even if the test succeeds, it would not make the regime more secure. On the contrary, it would only make it all the more insecure, as international sanctions would intensify.
The North’s young leader should realize that it is nothing more than an illusion that nuclear bombs would give him what he wants: regime security, international recognition and economic development. Nuclear bombs would only give more pain to the North Korean people.